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Crowds get the royal waive
By

PRINCE Charles joined hundreds of pensioners in Abbey on Friday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a charity dedicated to housing the elderly.

The Abbeyfield Society's golden jubilee service was the third stop for the prince, who had also visited the Building Research Establishment in Bricket business area in Hemel Hempstead to talk to businesses affected by the Buncefield explosion.

Crowds of children from Aboyne Lodge JMI School gathered outside the cathedral gates in the afternoon to greet the royal visitor, waving Union Jack flags and cheering.

But the prince, who was running behind schedule, only managed to wave from afar as he got out of his chauffeur-driven car before turning his attention to the line of dignitaries awaiting him.

Among them was former health minister Virginia Bottomley, president of the -based Abbeyfield Society, of which Prince Charles is the royal patron.

Also present were MP Anne Main, the Mayor of , Alison Steer, and the Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, Sir Simon Bowes-Lyon.

The Abbeyfield charity, which has its head offices in Victoria Street, manages 785 houses around the country offering supported sheltered housing, 24-hour residential care and dementia care.

Speaking after the ceremony, Mrs Bottomley said the event was the highlight of the organisation's jubilee year.

"It is a thrilling occasion," she said.

"We are proud of our achievements over the last 50 years, now with almost 800 houses and 8,000 residents.

"But we know that is only the tip of the iceberg and we are dedicated to achieving even greater results in the next decades, particularly providing extra care for those who need it."

The Bishop of , The Rt Revd Christopher Herbert, and the Dean of , the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John, jointly led the service, with contributions from representatives of the charity.

Haileybury School Choir sang an anthem specially composed by Jeremy Morris while Charles Nottcutt of Nottcutts Garden Centres had developed a new rose, the Abbeyfield Gold, to mark the occasion.

After the service, the prince signed the visitor book before speaking to members of the congregation.

Fred Richardson, a resident of Abbeyfield, Bushey, was one of those who spoke to him.

Mr Richardson said: "He asked me where I was from and he mentioned it was a nice service and that the homes were good homes.

"He commented on my Royal Air Force medal, then he moved along the line.

"I expected it to be more formal, but he was really very informal and very pleasant."

Not everyone was so impressed by the Prince's conduct, however.

David Hobbs, who has three children at Aboyne Lodge School in Etna Road, said: "All of Aboyne Lodge were here and he didn't even come over and say hello. It was very disappointing."

11:58amMonday3rdJuly2006

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